Hanoi

Quite well rested we arrived in Vietnam’s capital at around 5 AM. Unfortunately our stay started a bit unpleasant as the meter of out taxi was manipulated. So after 4 USD we stopped the taxi driver, yelled at him and walked the last kilometer to our hotel. One positive aspect of this was that we saw a lot of people exercising around the lake. Quite a cool sight so early in the morning (and in carrying our bags we had a little exercise ourselves).

We had an excellent Pho (soup) near our hotel as an early breakfast. As always street food is just the best in Vietnam. After a nap we had some yummy Bun Cha (basically some pork and spring-rolls in kind of a soup) for lunch and had a first look around the old quarters which is the heart of the city (and a Mecca for T-Shirt sellers ;)). In the evening we visited the traditional Water Puppet Theater which was a very nice low-tech spectacle. The puppeteers operated their water puppets (which were on a long stick) from behind a curtain and the whole show was accompanied by live music.

The second day was devoted to more sightseeing. And so we strolled around Hoan Kiem Lake and had a look at its pretty temple. A bit later we had look at the French style Hanoi Opera house.

We had booked a day trip the next day to see the temples and river landscape of Tam Coc which was about a two hours drive away (including flat tire of the mini bus). First we stopped at the temples of Hoa Lu which were built for King Dinh and King Le in the 10th century (so our brochure said). Two small but nice temples with a pretty mountain background.

After a typical “tour lunch buffet” (which was not even that bad) we headed to the nearby river where we boarded a three man boat (the third man being the driver who rowed the boat). And so for the next hour we enjoyed the pretty landscape. The limestone mountains and caves reminded us a bit of Halong Bay or Guilin in South China. It was almost tacky to see some farmers harvesting rice and some water buffalo nearby.

After this splendid ride it was time to get active and go for a short bicycle ride along the rice fields to yet another temple. This one was quite special as it was built into the mountain and consisted of three stories.

Indeed a nice little trip out of Hanoi. We liked it.

The next day we first visited the Temple of Literature where the first university of old Vietnam was built more than a thousand years ago. Later on we continued to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. The museum building looks like a bunker from the 70s and also the exhibitions themselves take one back to the cold war. Quite an interesting experience.

As we soon will be going to China we spent the next day planning. Quite a challenge to come up with an itinerary for such a big country without too much backtracking (we think we managed but you will read about it in a few days).

That brought our Vietnam adventure to an end as the next afternoon we were flying out to Hong Kong. It’s always interesting to re-visit a country as one sees the changes (both the positive and negative ones). We thought Vietnam became even more hectic than a few years ago and mass tourism has unfortunately taken its toll on certain areas (e.g. Mue and especially Nah Trang) which might turn to be quite a bad thing in the long run not only for the tourism industry.

On the other hand there are still a lot of exceptionally nice things in Vietnam. We encountered a lot of hospitality in the various places we stayed (which were always very good value for money). We loved the cities of Hoi An and Hue which were very charming and our cooking class was an absolute highlight of the whole trip. We can’t finish this entry without mentioning the delicious food we had during our three weeks in Vietnam. Almost every meal was a culinary highlight.

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